CD and Book Reviews

Hot CDs

Sure, you can waltz across Texas to the Cornell Hurd Band ’s Texas Fruit Shack (Behemoth), but you can also shuffle, two-step, boogie, and maybe even jitterbug. Joined by guest stars like Johnny Bush, Austinite Hurd fronts a versatile group that puts an authoritative stamp on the full run of Lone Star styles. His originals revel in classic country’s ingenious wordplay (“It Wouldn’t Be Hell Without You”) while his remakes range from the familiar (“Good Rockin’ Tonight”) to the obscure (“Talk About Me,” a lost Johnny Paycheck gem). JOHN MORTHLAND

Among those who earned a star on the jazz map from their hard times with the brilliant but abusive Charles Mingus were two edgy R&B saxophonists from Texas, Booker Ervin and John Handy . The pair joined the formidable bassist in a period of prodigious output; Mingus’ compositional smarts were coming to the fore, and his brooding, loose, and expansive blues-based romps offered plenty of space to roam, especially for Ervin’s fat Texas tenor. Passions of a Man: The Complete Atlantic Recordings 1956—1961 (Rhino) collects Mingus’ early Atlantic sessions into a six-volume set, serving up essential listening from a true jazz giant. . . . Reckless Kelly ’s infectious country pop is not that far removed from the generic sort that has kept Alan Jackson and his Nashville ilk swathed in designer Western wear. Yet this flannel-shirted gang of Oregonians who moved to Austin about a year ago are no groomed-for-success hat act. Their debut, Millican (Cold Spring), betrays a band younger than its level of musical sophistication suggests, but with real charm and potential. JEFF MCCORD

I have heard the future of cool jazz, and his name is Fred Sanders . On his debut, East of Vilbig (Leaning House), the Dallas pianist collaborates with trumpeter Roy Hargrove (his old Arts Magnet High School classmate), sax maestro Marchel Ivery, and many others, delivering a piece of work as definitive as James Clay and David “Fathead” Newman’s Wide Open Spaces. The inspired solos that riff off Sanders’ nine instrumentals literally soar from a blues-inflected groove that gives the album its backbone. . . . Western dance-hall music used to be a given in Texas, but these days honky-tonk is fast becoming an artifact—which is why we should embrace Geronimo Treviño III ’s Live From Kendalia Halle (Half Breed). San Antonian Treviño and his band cover all the standards, from the Ray Price classic “Crazy Arms” to Lawton Williams’ “Fraulein,” and blend in originals (such as “I Luv Me Trucka”) that will someday be classics if the two-steppers keep two-stepping long enough. JOE NICK PATOSKI

The cover of Lisa Loeb ’s last record was a cat cartoon; her new one, Firecracker (Geffen), bears a provocative postcard image. Translation? The Dallas native is still bookish and romantic, the girl with the clunky glasses no one notices at first glance, though she has toned down the cutesy factor. Which isn’t to say her forlorn love songs aren’t precious at times: “The time between meeting and finally leaving is sometimes called falling in love,” she sings. But whether you find her weepy or insightful, you have to acknowledge her pretty voice and her pop flair, which definitely tickles the, um, earloebs. . . . If a band is going to be Beatles-damaged, it may as well crib the most deranged parts. That’s lesson number one of Cotton Mather ’s Kontiki (Copper). The Austin trio’s new CD is a veritable sixties-fest of false starts, ragged garage riffs, psychedelic sound effects, and White Album— worthy song titles (“Vegetable Row”). The literal bells and whistles give the record its spark, but it gets its punch from Robert Harrison’s trippy ballads, woolly rockers, and AM-radio-ready pop songs. It’s groovy, baby. JASON COHEN

Hot Books

Being a critic is one thing, but backing it up is something else, as Fort Worth’s Dave Hickey demonstrates in Air Guitar (Art issues. Press, $17.95). This batch of essays delves into unacknowledged parallel universes (like art collecting and cars or country music songwriting and Chet Baker) and sings unlikely praises (Las Vegas is the epitome of Western civilization ?) in a manner that is alternately incisive, ponderous, absurd, and deep. JOE NICK PATOSKI

The title of Cocina de la Familia (Simon and Schuster, $27.50) sounds simple and homey, but al contrario; this Mexican cookbook is simple and sophisticated. Seattle author Marilyn Tausend has collaborated with Austin chef Miguel Ravago (of Bertram’s and Fonda San Miguel) to produce this juicy compendium of contemporary recipes from all over the country. Anyone for king salmon grilled in corn husks? PATRICIA SHARPE

The new Texas Almanac is 672 pages of bragging rights. Ever since the first edition appeared in 1857, Texans have turned to it for information about towns, tornadoes, fairs, football, and a gazillion other topics. Longtime residents can check out Texas’ newest official symbols (state dinosaur: pleurocoelus); newcomers can peruse the handy pronunciation guide (“oh—it’s WAY-ko”); and the anally retentive can pore over statistics on all 254 counties. Best of all, this Texas-size reference, which is published by the Dallas Morning News, has a Rhode Island—size price: $12.95. ANNE DINGUS

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